children's books, cover reveal

    EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: A Teacher Like You by Frank Murphy and Barbara Dan

    A Teacher Like You by Frank Murphy and Barbara Dan

    Following the success of A Boy Like You and A Girl Like You comes the next book in series that celebrates teachers. This time, Frank Murphy teams up with experienced educator Barbara Dan.

    I already knew how important teachers were, but COVID-19 made us all take a step back and really understand just how vital teachers are to our society. Like many others, I now have an overwhelming appreciation of teachers and what their job actually involves.

    Teachers have always been the heart of the learning process for children. That’s never been more true than it is now, as teachers strive to implement remote learning plans and support families on how to guide at-home learning for kids. Today, teachers must balance their own childcare and household needs while also connecting with each of their students to maintain growth and progress. That is no small task.

    Teachers, we salute you! The forthcoming picture book, A Teacher Like You is dedicated to you and all you do to educate and nurture the children of our future.

    PublisherSleeping Bear Press
    On-sale Date: March 15, 2020 available for pre-orders now!
    Written by Frank Murphy & Barbara Dan illustrated by Kayla Harren
    Reading Level: 5 – 7 years
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 2

    Teachers have the power to change the life of a child with every new school day. Whether they’re discovering math or reading, practicing a new instrument or a new sport, or learning about our wonderful, diverse world, students can count on the kindness, innovation, and patience of a teacher. This is a wonderful celebration of all the ways teachers help their student’s bloom.

    Mark your calendars for this March 2021 release!

    About the Authors

    Frank Murphy is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He has taught a wide variety of grades at the elementary for more than 27 years. A history buff, former basketball coach & Sixers fan, and popular speaker, Frank is the author of many fun historical fiction/biography books for young readers, including several popular Random House Step into Reading History Readers – including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2006 Best Book Award Winner Ben Franklin & the Magic Squares. As a teacher and father, Frank is committed to creating children’s books that expand readers’ knowledge of history and help inspire discussions about kindness, leadership, citizenship, growing up, and more.

    Barbara Dan is an elementary school teacher with over 15 years of experience. She strives to expose her students to a diverse collection of books. Discussions in her classroom with students cover topics such as: perseverance, kindness, acceptance, failure, family structure, exploration, emotions, diversity and different abilities.

    About the Illustrator
    Kayla Harren graduated from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City with a BFA in illustration. Books she has illustrated include A BOY LIKE YOU (winner of the 2019 EUREKA gold award) and THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST (winner of the EUREKA silver award.) Her work has been featured in the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, 3×3 Magazine, and she won the Highlights for Children Pewter Plate Award.

    Kayla love animals, playing volleyball, hiking, and eating cookies with frosting. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, Peter Harren, and their adorable dogs. Visit Kayla’s website by clicking here.

    children's books, diverse books, giveaways

    Ty’s Travels: A New Early Reader Series by Kelly Starling Lyons + A Giveaway

    In creating the Ty’s Travels series, author Kelly Starling Lyons wanted to make something that in her words “embodied Black Boy Joy.”

    This is the first I Can Read series that features a Black family. These Guided Reading Level I books are great early readers ages 4 – 8 learning to read. They contain basic language, adorable illustrations, simple sentences and word repetition. Readers will enjoy Ty’s first train adventure and his first race car adventure. I think this is such a delightful series showing kids being everyday kids and having joyful experiences. We’re looking forward to reading the forthcoming books in the series as they are released.

    Ty’s Travels: All Aboard!

    Join Ty on his imaginative adventures in Ty’s Travels: All Aboard!, a My First I Can Read series by acclaimed author and illustrator team Kelly Starling Lyons and Nina Mata. Family time and imagination and play are highlighted in this fun story, perfect for sharing with children 3 to 6.

    Ty wishes his family would play with him, but everyone is too busy before dinnertime. Luckily, Ty knows just what to do… Time for fun. Celebrate the power of imagination in All Aboard!

    Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom!

    Ty can’t wait to ride his brand-new scooter at the park. Other kids zip and zoom by like race cars, but all Ty can do is wobble! Ty wants to give up, but a new friend helps Ty give it another try.

    Celebrate imagination and the power of persistence in Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! by the acclaimed author and illustrator team Kelly Starling Lyons and Nina Mata.

    About the Author & Illustrator
    Kelly Starling Lyons is a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf ( Her acclaimed picture books include Ellen’s BroomGoing Down Home with Daddy, and Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations.

    Nina Mata is a New York Times bestselling illustrator and received her degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She has illustrated many books, including American gymnast Laurie Hernandez’s She’s Got This, NBA superstar LeBron James’s I Promise, and the Ty’s Travels I Can Read series. Nina currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, their daughter, and Tabitha, their cat. Visit her online at

    The Giveaway!
    One (1) lucky winner will win 1 copy of Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! AND 1 copy of Ty’s Travels: All Aboard!. Must be a US resident age 18 and over to enter. Good Luck!

    Ty’s Travels Early Reader Series Giveaway

    young adult books

    Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe (An Interview with Author Carole Boston Weatherford)

    Today, I’m thrilled to chat with New York Times best-selling author Carole Boston Weatherford about her forthcoming YA novel entitled Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe. It’s the first YA novel written about Marilyn Monroe’s life. The book publishes September 8, 2020 from Candlewick Press.

    Carole is one of the leading poets writing for young people today. She believes that poetry makes music with words. Her work spans poetry, nonfiction, biography and historical fiction. She wrote her first poem in grade school when she was in the first grade.

    In Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe, Carole channels the actress hailed as the sexiest woman of all time. She is reflecting on her life as she prepares to sing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. Born Norma Jeane, Marilyn had more than her share of baggage. Not just the duffel bag her troubled mother stuffed her into to steal her from foster parents. Not just her Louis Vuitton luggage or the designer handbags that held her pills. But also parental neglect, sexual abuse, failed marriages, miscarriages, mental breakdowns, and the manipulation she endured under Hollywood’s studio system. For all her misery, Marilyn was also a businesswoman and the brains behind her brand—so much more than the blond bombshell that she portrayed. Through poems that conjure Marilyn’s voice, Beauty Mark goes inside her head and heart, inside the hopes and dreams of a Hollywood legend.

    What ideas or influences did you have in mind when creating this work?
    I was drawn to Marilyn Monroe for several reasons, chief among them her iconic status. I saw young adults rocking Marilyn t-shirts and accessories and decorating their rooms with posters of her. As a child of the 1960s, I could remember hearing about her tragic death. I later learned more about her troubled childhood, marriages, miscarriages, mental illness, and premature demise. To me, Marilyn was not just a movie star; she was a mood and a mystery. Her life was a poem. Though typecast as a blond bombshell, Marilyn was so much more. She was a producer, poet, painter, gardener, avid reader, and, most importantly, the brains behind her brand.

    How did you approach writing this verse novel? What were the various stages in its development?
    I read many biographies of Marilyn—ones that were narrative and others that included collected her mementoes. I approached her story chronologically, reading chapters from various references about the same period or episode. Then, I synthesized the information to come up with my own take. I recreated not only her voice but also emotional backdrops for her narrative.

    Can you recall particular problem solving /decisions you had to make in the writing process?
    First, I had to decide on the novel’s premise. I decided that the story would unfold as a flashback. The first scene shows Marilyn a few months before her death. In a Madison Square Garden dressing room, she is being sewn into her gown to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John Kennedy. During that styling which required Marilyn to stand still for hours—thus the first poem’s title—I imagine Marilyn reflecting on how a former foster child born as Norma Jeane rose to worldwide fame.

    There was also one poem that I wrote out of sequence—the one where she is committed to a psychiatric hospital. I feared the darkness of going there with her. So, I wrote that poem next to last.

    Which poetic / narrative techniques did you decide to employ, and why?I used first-person point of view to allow Marilyn to speak for herself. In life, her voice was often ignored or minimalized by studio executives. It was important to me that she be heard, that she have agency. Like my book Becoming Billie Holiday,

    If there were places in the book where you felt it was best to emphasize the poetic strategies over the narrative strategies, or vice versa – what guided these decisions?
    Among Beauty Mark’s most poetic lyrics are “The Seven Year Itch: Nine Months Hitched”; “The Physics of Ferragamos”; “Miscarriage Blues: Ectopic Pregnancy, 1957”; “Who is Marilyn Monroe”; and Late: A Litany of Excuses. The rhyming poem, The Seven Year Itch, documents the marriage-ending photo shoot which produced the iconic image of her skirt billowing atop a subway grate. That poem is playful but also bluesy. “The Physics of Ferragamos” shows the interplay between her stilettos and her wiggle. The six-line poem, “Miscarriage Blues: Ectopic Pregnancy, 1957” conveys her deep and unrequited maternal yearnings. One of several list poems in Beauty Mark, “Who is Marilyn Monroe?” views her mystique through the lenses of photographers, film directors, history, and finally herself. “Late: A Litany of Excuses” employs repetition to explore her chronic lateness. The book’s epilogue is a found poem of headlines and quotes.

    What poetic / narrative effects were you hoping to achieve?
    I wanted the narrative to read like a one-woman show, in which Marilyn was recalling her story in an intimate setting.

    What are your thoughts on the verse novel as a form?
    I love to read and to write verse novels. The form resonates with me as a reader and as a poet. With spare text and distilled emotions, verse novels can pack a more powerful punch than prose. The economy of language can also make verse novels more appealing to reluctant readers who are put off by the dense text in novels.

    Have verse novels you have read been influential on this work in some way?
    My own Becoming Billie Holiday probably had the most influence on Beauty Mark. In the twelve years between writing about two iconic female entertainers, I faced mental illness in my own family. That allowed me to take an even deeper dive into Marilyn’s life, loves and losses.  

    What have you learnt about writing verse novels from the verse novels you have read?
    There is no limit to the subject matter than verse novels can tackle. The form is ripe for experimentation. That stimulates me as a writer.

    Carole Boston Weatherford reading a poem entitled Age Three from Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe
    • Title: Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe
    • Grade Level : 9 – 12
    • Hardcover : 192 pages
    • Publisher : Candlewick (September 8, 2020)
    • Reading level : 14 – 17 years

    About the Author

    Carole Boston Weatherford, a New York Times best-selling author and poet, was selected as the Children’s Book Guild 2019 Nonfiction Award Winner. Her numerous books for children include the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book Becoming Billie Holiday, illustrated by Floyd Cooper; the Caldecott Honor Books Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes; and the critically acclaimed Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Carole Boston Weatherford lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

    Visit Carole’s website to learn more about her and her work.

    Your turn: Have you read any of Carole’s books? If so, what are some of your favorites? Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James (A Book Review)

    Title: I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
    Published by Pengin Kids
    Pages: 32
    Age Range: 4 – 8 years

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Penguin Kids in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    An upbeat, empowering, important picture book from the team that created the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.

    I am
    a nonstop ball of energy.
    Powerful and full of light.
    I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader.

    The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

    As a parent, my goal is to present my children with a full spectrum of Black and brown characters in a variety of books. I want their experiences of story and representations of the world to include people of color, people they can imagine being like — people like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Kamala Harris, and Chadwick Boseman — or fictional characters from books or movies with whom they can identify.

    While I think it’s important to teach kids about history and other topics, it’s also equally important to expose them to stories about joy. Let’s normalize having more inclusive conversations about joy, specifically Black joy. I believe children of all races need to be exposed to “feel good” stories that feature Black children being celebrated and feeling joyful. Picture books like I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes is a good place to start.

    This powerful picture book is the companion to the award-winning book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. In the introduction, the author dedicated the book to Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and five other Black boys who were senselessly killed by police officers. The illustrator dedicated the book to his autistic son Gabriel. Fun fact: Gabriel is the boy featured on the cover of the book.

    I Am Every Good Thing is a beautiful book that encourages readers to celebrate everything that makes them the person they are. Kids learn they can be a leader, an explorer, the life of the party, and an undisputed champion. They also learn it’s okay to make mistakes, to get back up when they fall down, and to be a shoulder to cry on when needed.

    This affirming book will likely leave kids (and adults) feeling like they can achieve anything. My heart was so full as I read this with my kids and I shed happy tears. I want to gift this to every child I know to let them know how special they are.

    As the ending states, “I am worthy of success, of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness. And without a shadow of a doubt, I am worthy to be loved.” Isn’t that such a beautiful message to read with kids?

    While this book is a celebration of Black joy and self-love, it’s a story to be enjoyed by everyone. Children of all races and cultures can appreciate the uplifting and positive messages in this book. If your children or students ever start do doubt their own beauty and begin to reject themselves, let this book serve as a mirror for children by reflecting and reminding them of how special they are. I Am Every Good Thing is an excellent resource to help reinforce a positive self image.

    Your turn: How do you help children find joy in everyday life? What are your best tips for teaching kids about self-love and acceptance? Feel free to share in the comments.

    adult books, giveaways, product reviews, reading tips

    Bookworm Essentials: Tools & Resources to Enhance Your Family’s Reading Life + A Giveaway!

    With the growing accessibility of books and reading materials, bookish accessories are in high demand now more than ever before. But let’s face it, being a bookworm is a lot of work. It takes dedication, concentration and plenty of time. Below I’ve compiled a list of essentials I have found to be essential to ensure a pleasant, stress free reading experience.

    Read Everyday. Essential #1: Something to read
    If you’re going to be a bookworm (or a writer), you’re going to need a lot of books to read. So start by compiling a wish list of books you’d like to read and start reading.

    No Dog Eared Pages, Please! Essential #2: Book Darts
    These magical little bookmarks are invaluable for not only marking your place, but prepping for book club (or blog post writing). Mark not only your page, but the exact line you want to remember. Once you try them you might not want go back to your old bookmarking ways.

    Say Goodbye to Flapping Pages. Essential #3 Page Anchor
    If you’ve ever struggled with pages flapping in your face while reading a physical book, this little accessory may just be your reading BFF. You can read my previous review of the Page Anchor here. BONUS: Use my coupon code HEREWEEREAD15 to get 15% off your Page Anchor! Head over to now!

    Let there be light! Essential #4: An LED Book light
    If you read in bed like I do, you may want to have an LED book light like this one handy. I find portable book lights really useful for reading in bed at night. I also use my book light in the car or while traveling by plane.

    Protect your bookish investments. Essential #5: A book sleeve
    Whether you’re book is in your home, at the bottom of your beach bag or the top of your carry-on, it will be protected from the bumps and bruises of travel inside a cute protective sleeve.

    Read while you eat. Essential #6: A wooden book holder
    Do you love to read books while eating,cooking, drinking tea, having coffee, or while knitting? Do you need a gadget to hold books open while you are reading? Then you might want to invest in a wooden book holder like this one. Bonus: It also doubles as a cookbook recipe holder or a tablet holder.

    Set a daily reading timed goal. Essential #7: A reading timer
    I aim to read for at least 20 – 30 minutes daily in the morning and at night right before bed. I find using a reading timer helps me stay on track with my daily reading goals. Simply set the timer for the allotted period, read until it goes off, then lights out. Both of my kids use this children’s reading timer since they don’t have mobile devices of their own yet.

    Bookmark It. Essential #8: Literary Tattoos
    Ok, so these are not essentials, but they are fun… Literary Tattoos!
    Just add water: Simple stick, wet, and peel instructions mean easy application for all of these temporary tattoos.

    Bookmark It. Essential #9: Bookmarks
    I’m really picky when it comes to bookmarks. In the past, I have used paper bookmarks, bobby pins, paper clips and index cards to save my place in a book. However, over the years I’ve learned bookmarks have to be functional, easy to use and long-lasting. Today, there are so many types of bookmarks to choose from – even magnetic ones!

    Lately, I’ve been loving the durable leather bookmarks from our friends at Ox and Pine. Oh, and did I mention their bookmarks can be personalized? They also sell beautiful journals and a few other bookish items.

    And hey, fellow bookworm, have you heard of our diverse summer reading challenge? Although summer is almost over, you can still use this resource all year round. Happy Reading!

    The Giveaway!
    Our friends at Ox and Pine are offering two FREE personalized bookmarks to one (1) lucky US based resident! Enter for your chance to win below. Good Luck!Ox and Pine: Two Personalized Leather Bookmarks

    Your turn: What are some of your favorite bookworm essentials? Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's literacy, product reviews, technology

    Adventure Academy: WordPlay with Kwame Alexander

    My kids are absolutely LOVING Adventure Academy and I can’t lie, so am I! It is so good, truly. Created by the creators of ABC Mouse, Adventure Academy builds critical knowledge of essential topics in language arts, math, science, social studies, and more. It’s recommended for kids ages 8-13.

    Our family recently got a sneak peek into WordPlay, a new series that will soon be featured on Adventure Academy. We were invited to an exclusive virtual screening and we can’t be more excited about this forthcoming show for kids!

    What is WordPlay?
    WordPlay is a brand new 10-episode kids video series created by Kwame Alexander. Wordplay will be available in September exclusively within Adventure Academy. The educational series provides a master class in storytelling and writing for elementary students. In essence, WordPlay teaches elementary-age children how to write short stories in a highly engaging format. Kwame Alexander created, executive produced, and serves as the host of the show.

    Each episode of WordPlay features Kwame working through a key stage of the storytelling process with the help of his diverse group of friends. Celebrities and other well-known guests make an appearance in the episode shows. For example, actor and author Maulik Pancholy of 30 Rock and former VP of Animated Shorts for Nickelodeon Samantha Berger, offer insights into various elements of the storytelling process, such as exposition, character development, and how to build a sense of mystery.

    WordPlay with Kwame Alexander

    WordPlay also features “The Pajama Drama Club,” a book club of kids who act out stories by performing literary songs and jokes in a theatrical production.

    Do your kids or students use Adventure Academy? Feel free to share in the comments. Look for the Wordplay series to be rolled out to Adventure Academy starting in September 2020.

    For more information on WordPlay, visit and Adventure Academy, visit

    children's books, cover reveal, diverse books

    EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything! by Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young

    Who can forget the viral video of three- year-old Ayaan Diop reciting his daily affirmations while walking to school? With his backpack on his back and a banana in-hand, Ayaan repeated the positive thoughts on his walk with his mother, who posted a video on her Instagram account.

    Ayaan Diop’s viral affirmation video taken by his mom Alissa Holder (video here), received hundreds of thousands of views on social media. Ayaan’s affirmation, I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything, was met with excitement from viewers everywhere including the Today Show, CBS This Morning, and Ellen Degeneres. Check out the synopsis of the book from the publisher written below.

    Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
    On-sale Date: December 29, 2020 available for pre-orders now!
    Written by Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young, illustrated by Nneka Myers

    Based on a viral video comes the story of one boy’s positive energy and how a sunny outlook can turn everything around.

    It’s a new day and Ayaan has woken up on the wrong side of the bed, where nothing feels quite right. What if he doesn’t know the answer at school? What if he messes up? But as he sets out that morning, all it takes is a few reminders from his mom and some friends in the neighborhood to remind him that a new day is a good day because…

    Mark your calendars for this December 2020 release.

    I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything! Art by Nneka Myers
    I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything! Art by Nneka Myers

    About the Authors

    Alissa is graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She has always had a passion for working with children and is currently working as teacher at a child care center in New York City. Alissa has always had a love for reading and a goal of writing her own children’s books. She is the mother of Ayaan Diop and Ayaan’s little sister.

    Zulekha is a graduate of Spelman College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in economics. She has always loved reading and has passed that love along to her three children Amari, Amir, and Aria. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, children, and furry Dogter Mochi.

    About the Illustrator
    Nneka Myers is an illustrator and character designer based in Toronto, Canada. Since graduating with a BAA in animation from Sheridan College, her vibrant illustrations and designs have been published in several children’s books and in animated preschool shows.

    Visit Nneka’s website here to see some of her work.


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